ePub 版

fined in the cell adjacent to that from whence Riego had been led out to execution; but the soldier had mentioned to the prisoner that inquiries had been made about an Englishman of the name of Harper, and the answer had been, that no such person was within the prison walls. The prisoner entreated the soldier to convey the scrap of paper that he gave him to the gentleman who had been making the inquiries: he consented to do so; the banker received it, and sent it to me. It was signed "George Matthewes." It was scarcely legible; but it stated that the writer had been long in solitary confinement, without accusation, without judgment, yet in apprehension of sentence of death, and that he was an Englishman.

Mr Canning was then Prime Minister. I wrote to him immediately, and a dispatch was sent off without delay to Madrid, directing the British minister to claim the person who, without the forms of legal proceeding, had been thus arbitrarily detained. The intervention was successful, and

the prisoner was released.

He accompanied the returning messenger to England; he brought with him the funeral mementos of Riego-the pocket-handkerchief with which he wiped his last mortal but manly tears, and gave it to his widow. Poor thing! she was then drooping, like a lily on its stem, fair and pure; and the weight of grief soon overwhelmed a broken heart, and loosened the silver cord of an existence attenuated by long disease. I remember her, a saint-like beauty, disassociated, as it were, from earth.

Matthewes brought with him one other treasure-it was a white dove. While excluded from all knowledge of what was passing in the world, hopeless of ever communicating his forlorn condition to any living soul, that dove had flown into his cell. He plucked a feather from its wing, and, with his teeth and nails, shaped it into a pen. He made ink of the filth he gathered in the corners of his miserable abode; he tore out the lining of his hat, on which he wrote the account that led to his deliverance that was the memorandum I received. What became of the dove I know not; but George Matthewes died some years afterwards, a prisoner in Portugal.


Among the galley slaves whom I saw depart for Toulon, on the 21st April 1834, was one, all whose attention was absorbed by a little creature that ran up and down his arms, hid itself in his breast, played about his neck, and seemed busied in diverting the criminal from the dark and dreary thoughts which must have been rushing through his mind. I saw him fully occupied with his plaything, and far more concerned in protecting it from mischief than with other any care. An intruder into his cell, he had managed first to capture, and then to tame it; and, having no other receptacle for what remained in him of kindness and benevolence (and I never knew kindness and benevolence wholly eradicated in the most ferocious criminal), he had poured out upon the sleek skinned mouse all that he had of love. I saw him full of apprehension lest the poor little animal should be injured or crushed in the crowd. As the convicts were led forth, one after another, and seated in the long line from which they are to rise, with the heavy iron collar rivetted around their throat, and chained together, in companies of twenty, I watched his eye, and fancied I could follow his thoughts. He seemed wholly careless of what was passing around him; he took no notice of the spectators; and even when the hammer smote the rivet upon the anvil, he was watching the courses of the little creature, and was, perhaps, contrasting their mutual destinies. prisoner, too," I fancied he said, a fettered prisoner; but still with one being at least to watch over and protect thee. While there are hands to aid, and a heart to feel for thee, ever present and ever thoughtful, no hand will be stretched out, no heart will beat, in charity for thy keeper. When the wind blows, and the rain falls, thou hast a shelter in my bosom; its warmth will be for thee in the cold and wintry season; but where shall I retreat?" And then he smiled upon the pretty little animal, stroked its back gently, and hid it again in his beating breast.-Bowring.


AN ADVENTURE AMONG THE MOUNTAINS OF QUITO. On leaving the Indian village, we continued to wind round Chimborazo's wide base; but its snow-crowned head no longer shone above us in clear brilliancy, for a dense fog was

gathering gradually around it. Our guides looked anxiously > towards it, and announced their apprehensions of a violent storm. We soon found that their fears were well founded. The thunder began to roll, and resounded through the mountainous passes with the most terrific grandeur. Then came the vivid lightning; flash following flash-above, around, beneath every where a sea of fire. We sought a momentary shelter in a cleft of the rocks, whilst one of our guides hastened forward to seek a more secure asylum. In a short time, he returned, and informed us that he had discovered a spacious cavern, which would afford us sufficient protection from the elements. We proceeded thither immediately, and, with great difficulty, and not a little danger, at last got into it.


When the storm had somewhat abated, our guides ventured out in order to ascertain if it were possible to continue our journey. The cave in which we had taken refuge was so extremely dark, that, if we moved a few paces from the entrance, we could not see an inch before us; and we were debating as to the propriety of leaving it, even before the Indians came back, when we suddenly heard a singular groaning or growling in the farther end of the cavern, which instantly fixed all our attention. Wharton and myself listened anxiously; but our daring and inconsiderate young friend, Lincoln, together with my huntsman, crept about upon their hands and knees, and endeavoured to discover, by groping, whence the sound proceeded.


They had not advanced far into the cavern, before we them utter an exclamation of surprise; and they returned to us, each carrying in his arms an animal singularly marked, and about the size of a cat, seemingly of great strength and power, and furnished with immense fangs. The eyes were of a green colour; strong claws were upon their feet; and a blood-red tongue hung out of their mouths. Wharton had scarcely glanced at them, when he exclaimed in consternation, "We have come into the den of a He was interrupted by a fearful cry of dismay from our guides, who came rushing precipitately towards us, calling out, "A tiger! a tiger!" and, at the same time, with extraordinary rapidity, they climbed up a cedar tree, which stood at


the entrance of the cave, and hid themselves among the branches.

After the first sensation of horror and surprise, which rendered me motionless for a moment, had subsided, I grasped my fire-arms. Wharton had already regained his composure and self-possession; and he called to us to assist him instantly in blocking up the mouth of the cave with an immense stone, which fortunately lay near it. The sense of approaching danger augmented our strength; for we now distinctly heard the growl of the ferocious animal, and we were lost beyond redemption if he reached the entrance before we could get it closed. Ere this was done, we could distinctly see the tiger bounding towards the spot, and stooping in order to creep into his den by the narrow opening. At this fearful moment, our exertions were successful, and the great stone kept the wild beast at bay.

There was a small open space, however, left between the top of the entrance and the stone, through which we could see the head of the animal, illuminated by his glowing eyes, which he rolled glaring with fury upon us. His frightful roaring, too, penetrated to the depths of the cavern, and was answered by the hoarse growling of the cubs. Our ferocious enemy attempted first to remove the stone with his powerful claws, and then to push it with his head from its place; and these efforts, proving abortive, served only to increase his wrath. He uttered a tremendous, heart-piercing howl, and his flaming eyes darted light into the darkness of

our retreat.

"Now is the time to fire at him," said Wharton, with his usual calmness; "aim at his eyes; the ball will go through his brain, and we shall then have a chance to get rid of him."

Frank seized his double-barrelled gun, and Lincoln his pistols. The former placed the muzzle within a few inches of the tiger, and Lincoln did the same. At Wharton's command, they both drew the triggers at the same moment; but no shot followed. The tiger, who seemed aware that the flash indicated an attack upon him, sprang growling from the entrance, but, feeling himself unhurt, immediately turned back again, and stationed himself in his former place. The powder in both pieces was wet.

[ocr errors]

"All is now over," said Wharton ; we have only now to choose whether we shall die of hunger, together with these animals who are shut up along with us, or open the entrance to the blood-thirsty monster without, and so make a quicker end of the matter."

So saying, he placed himself close beside the stone, which for the moment defended us, and looked undauntedly upon the lightning eyes of the tiger. Lincoln raved, and Frank took a piece of strong cord from his pocket, and hastened to the farther end of the cave; I knew not with what design. We soon, however, heard a low stifled groaning; and the tiger, which had heard it also, became more restless and disturbed than ever. He went backwards and forwards before the entrance of the cave, in the most wild and impetuous manner; then stood still, and, stretching out his neck in the direction of the forest, broke forth into a deafening howl.

Our two Indian guides took advantage of this opportunity to discharge several arrows from the tree. He was struck more than once, but the light weapons bounded back harmless from his thick skin. At length, however, one of them struck him near the eye, and the arrow remained sticking in the wound. He now broke anew into the wildest fury, sprang at the tree, and tore it with his claws, as if he would have dragged it to the ground. But having, at length, succeeded in getting rid of the arrow, he became more calm, and laid himself down, as before, in front of the


Frank now returned from the lower end of the den, and a glance showed us what he had been doing. In each hand, and dangling from the end of a string, were the two cubs. He had strangled them; and before we were aware what he intended, he threw them through the opening to the tiger. No sooner did the animal perceive them, than he gazed earnestly upon them, and began to examine them closely, turning them cautiously from side to side. As soon as he became aware that they were dead, he uttered so piercing a howl of sorrow, that we were obliged to put our hands to our ears.

The thunder had now ceased, and the storm had sunk to

« 上一頁繼續 »